4 reasons to wait for a better Smartwatch

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The Samsung Galaxy Altius concept render, could this be the final Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch?

While smartwatches have been released before (Pebble smartwatch, Sony SmartWatch 2) and there are more coming like the upcoming Agent Smartwatch or the better known Samsung Galaxy Gear, there are just as many reasons to wait first before going out and buying a smartwatch. We list these reasons down below 

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A concept render of what the Apple iWatch could do, which looks a lot more than what most smartwatches can do today

Limited Features - Designers still unsure about functionality

As it is, the current batch of smartwatches are little better than wearable bluetooth remote controls. They allow you to accept or not accept calls, check notifications and basically interface with your smartphone which is the one actually doing all the work. The smartwatch does not work on its own, nor does it allow you to do the full range of what you can do on a smartphone. This is mainly because most manufacturers and designers still aren't sure about what a smartwatch should do with some wanting to put a 41MP camera while others suggest allowing it to do calls and SMS. Others still want it to work like Dick Tracy's Radio watch and get Video calls. However, what smartphones we have for now are little better than smaller screens that do more or less the same thing as your smartphone, which means you need a smartphone to make it useful. The main reason why most designers are still unsure as to what features to put in a smartwatch lays in the second reason you should wait for a smartwatch which is the technology or hardware currently available.

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The Agent smartwatch, another waterproof smartwatch with bluetooth sync capabilities

Limited Hardware - Not much you can do with what we have now

Let's face it, the hardware required for a fully functional smartwatch is still very limited. We still don't have consumer level flexible screen technology nor do we have an easy way of controlling the smartwatch. Two or three physical buttons or a super small touchscreen are not enough to handle SMS, typing or trying to correct still inaccurate Voice to text dictation. While the hardware severely limits what we can do on a smartwatch, the main limitation remains the battery life. Most people put on a watch and only change the battery once every 1-2 years (or never, with some kinetic watch owners) but current smartwatches only have a battery life of 5 days (the Pebble smartwatch) to 3 days (Sony SmartWatch 2). This battery life will remain the largest hurdle for now, as we expect the next batch of Smartwatches to have the same below 1-week battery life and similar functionality.

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The Samsung Galaxy Gear prototypes which surfaced before the IFA 2013

Limited Apps and Fragmentation - Everyone is doing their own thing which means less apps for everyone

While smartwatch makers can make their own apps, most of the apps that we use today on smartphones come from third-party app makers. Right now, there are only two major smartwatches with the Sony Smartwatch 2 and Pebble smartwatch but both have their own App SDKs and both have a rather limited amount of apps available. Unfortunately, there are also a limited amount of app designers out there, and not every app designer would be willing to develop his or her app for each and every smartwatch out there. With so many other smartwatches coming and each having their own SDKs we can only expect the fragmentation to get worse, with less and less smartwatch apps for each new smartwatch to come out. If all of the smartwatch makers were to utilize the same app platform or operating system, this would likely be a better incentive for you to go out and get a smartwatch unless of course a smartwatch that can download and use Android apps came out as well (which could be very soon with Google's buyout of WIMM Labs last year, makers of the WIMM One smartwatch and Android based app mini market). 

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Sony's recently released SmartWatch 2, has it's own SDK which was recently opened up for open source developers

Expensive Price - Sometimes costs more than the smartphone it connects to

Even now, smartwatches do very little but cost much more than what they really offer. The Pebble smartwatch costs $150 (RM489) while the Sony SmartWatch 2 could cost anywhere from $150 to $175 (RM570). According to rumours, the Apple iWatch is going to cost $149 to $229 (RM746). We can only expect the same from upcoming smartwatches as it will take some time before smartwatches go below the $100 mark. Ideally, a smartwatch would cost the current amount if it could do everything a smartphone could, but if all it does is act as a bluetooth remote control, it shouldn't cost more than the smartphone it interfaces with. Unfortunately, if you're going to buy a smartwatch early, this is the price range you're probably going to have to consider.

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The ambitious Hyetis Crossbow smartwatch aims to put in a 41MP camera sensor for $1500 (RM4892)

Conclusion - Wait a while longer, things will get better soon

Computer technology moves very fast compared to other industries like cars or transportation. After all, it only took us so many years before we had smartphones more powerful than some desktop computers. Therefore, we expect that it shouldn't take too long for the reasons listed above to disappear on their own. How long should you wait? Perhaps within 2 years or so as everything stabilizes but if you'd like to join the fray don't say we didn't warn you. However, we'd love to be wrong about this, so if a manufacturer came out with a smartwatch capable of dealing with all of the problems listed above we'd probably be one of the first to try it out. We fully expect the technology necessary for a better smartwatch to mature eventually but not just yet. Perhaps Apple might nail it with their Apple iWatch, rumoured to come out in late 2014 which fits with the timeline we suggest above, or perhaps Google may finally come out with their WIMM Labs assisted smartwatch before that. Only time will tell.

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Will the Apple iWatch nail everything? Hopefully, but it is rumoured to come out late 2014. Can you wait that long?